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Frank Mildmay: Or, The Naval Officer
by Frederick Marryat
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From Library Journal
With this duo, published in 1829 and 1836, respectively, McBooks launches its new "Classics of Nautical Fiction." Marryat was a skipper in the British Navy, and the action here is based on his real experiences before the mast. When all your Patrick O'Brians are out, recommend Marryat.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Independent Publisher
The thunder of cannon, tempestuous gales, broken masts, salty tars, sadistic captains, desert islands, exotic locales-these two Maryatt books possess these staples of nautical fiction in abundance. Maryatt was an actual naval officer who fought in the Napoleonic Wars and he possesses the ability to write about the men and ships as an insider without swamping the reader in technical jargon. The novels are also fascinating for their antediluvian politics and morality which wed them inextricably to their time. In Frank Mildmay, a beautiful, cultured young woman has sex outside of wedlock. Both she and her illegitimate child are destroyed in just retribution (and to allow the hero to marry his ruling-class virgin sweetheart without complications). Mr. Midshipman Easy is both a rousing sea-yarn and a rabid assault on the precepts of liberty, equality and fraternity. Easy begins as a Rousseau-spouting liberal but learns a hard lesson about the terrible responsibilities of his enormous wealth and retires to his country estate where he hunts foxes and votes Conservative (interestingly, Maryatt was not a complete dinosaur, and takes any opportunity to inveigh against the practice of impressment prevalent in the British Navy of that era). Maryatt's two heroes themselves are so fortunate as to excite nausea upon long exposure. They thrash the bullies in the mess, escape from sharks, walk on water, catch bullets between their teeth-you get the picture. This said, were I the teenage boy I was (and thankfully no longer am), I would notice very little of the 'Rule Britannia' mentality and sundry other flaws and be completely enchanted by the heroes and their adventures. Maryatt is a competent enough stylist to seduce us for as long as we suspend our critical faculties. Of the two works, Mildmay is by far the most engaging and carefully written, staying within the boundaries of verisimilitude, and exhibiting an interesting tension between the narrator's anguish over his bad behavior and his relish in it. Easy, on the other hand, is a rather broadly drawn satire and gives the impression of having been hastily written. Some of its more bizarre elements include phrenology, Sicilian vendettas, and what might be the first commune in literature. Anchors aweigh!
Frank Mildmay is a rogue and a rascal who cuts a memorable swath as he move up the ranks of the early 19th-century Royal navy. Whether seducing pretty girls ashore, braving hurricanes at sea or scrambling aboard a French privateer with cutlass bared, Mildmay and his adventures live on!
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